Reflections of an Ish-ful Educator

Cathy Collins

In Peter Reynold’s book, “Ish,” a creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more important than “getting it right.” Hearing Reynolds reinforce that important message in his Ted-ish talk at this year’s MassCUE Conference caused me to reflect on my own path toward becoming an “Ish-ful” educator.

I have always had “ishful” tendencies. Earlier on in my career, I quit my first library job to study art, followed by photography and dance. My impulsive need to create has at times been so central to my existence that details such as paying the rent took a sideline to my creative interests.

After realizing that this primal urge to create was a shared one, and that educators such as myself could immerse ourselves in studying the creative process through graduate programs that focused on this area, I went back to graduate school for a second Masters Degree at Endicott College in Creative Arts and Learning.

The program further strengthened my personal belief that creativity plays a vital role in learning, personal development and self-esteem, and that we as educators have the opportunity and responsibility to encourage a creative mind set in our students.

To get students from wishful to “ish-ful” thinking, we can do the following:

*Help them overcome the internal voice that says, “I am not creative.”

*Encourage them to have fun and to play with ideas

*Role model risk-taking behavior and give them opportunities to think outside the box

*Focus on process over product. Provide plenty of self reflective activities.


As a librarian, I am part of a specialist field that is stereotypically thought of as non-ishful. How does one break the barriers of perception to promote “ish-ful” library media programs? No shushing zones are a start. We can celebrate student creativity at its chaotic best, and place a high priority on learning as a process. We can encourage students to connect the dots across subject areas and to value independent thinking. We can embrace and share the knowledge that messy is good, and that it often results in new ideas and creative products. We can value left-brained and right-brained thinking in equal measure, and encourage our students to think big and to stretch.  We can share with fellow educators that we are more than just brainiacs.

As educators, we can also be “ish-ful” artists who draw outside the lines, who encourage multi-sensory learning experiences that bring new subject matter to life, who explore new learning frontiers and embrace new technologies. In addition, we can serve as visionaries, who collaborate with key stakeholders to design new learning spaces and lesson plans that encourage innovative approaches to learning.


Ms. Collins has worked as a Media Specialist/Librarian for 14 years in locales ranging from California to Kathmandu, Nepal. She currently works as Librarian/Media Specialist at Sharon High School in Sharon, Massachusetts. She serves on the Executive Boards of both the Massachusetts Library System and MassCUE (Massachusetts Computer Using Educators). She earned National Board Certification as a Library/Media Teacher in 2009 and is the 2014 recipient of the AASL Intellectual Freedom Award. Her writing contributions include a chapter featured in the recently published ISTE book, “Literacy in the Digital Age,” Library Media Connection (“Survival Tactics for the Warrior Librarian,”) NEA and other education-related blog posts and journals. She served as a project consultant for the learning layer of the multi-media e-book, “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes from the Digital Age of Journalism.”

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